Wednesday, August 23, 2017

If you were a parent contemplating where to send your child in Israel after high school for a solid Jewish experience, would you send your child to Achvat Amim? The name sounds good, from the little Hebrew you might remember—sounds like the name of a Jewish congregation, a temple. But even if you can’t quite remember what the words mean, the website tells you: Solidarity of the Nations.

Intrigued, you look around the Achvat Amim website and see that one of Achvat Amim’s partners is Masa. Now that’s a name you’ve heard. You go to Google and you find Masa’s about page which states:

“Masa Israel, a public-service organization founded by the Prime Minister’s Office of the Government of Israel, together with The Jewish Agency for Israel, is the leading organization in the long term Israel experience space, and it sets the industry standard.”

Well, you think to yourself, if the Israeli government co-founded Achvat Amim, it must be a good, hearty, Zionist program. You’re pretty much sold, just right on the basis of that. Because you know that everything comes down to money, and you’re pretty sure this means Achvat Amim is receiving funds from the Israeli government. What better endorsement could there be, right?

Hashomer Hatzair

You might not even bother to look into the other Achvat Amim partners, whose names you’ve never heard of. Because once you see it’s got Israeli funding, you’re just not worried enough to dig further. That means you wouldn’t find out, for instance, that the group receives funding from the Marxist socialist Hashomer Hatzair movement with which Achvat Amim founder, Daniel Roth, is associated. Hashomer Hatzair receives funding from, for instance, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, affiliated with the Social DemocraticParty (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands - SPD). This foundation, according to a report by NGO Monitor, “cooperates closely with local partner organizations to jointly develop projects in the spirit of democracy, gender equality and peaceful co-existence.”                               

Which is why in December 2011, the director of FES’ Jerusalem office, Michael Broning, co-wrote an article with Ghassan Khatib, director of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Government Media Center, entitled, “What about Israeli Rejection,” a rebuttal to an op-ed by two Israeli government oficials: “The Problem is Palestinian Rejectionism.” The rebuttal argued there is no Arab rejection of peace and that Israel is the intransigent party standing in the way of peace. Certainly a problematic position for a foundation funded by the German government, if you see what I mean.

Rabbis for Human Rights

And since you’re not looking further into Achvat Amim’s credentials, you also wouldn’t bother looking into Rabbis for Human Rights, which receives oodles of funding from all the wrong places, including the George Soros-funded New Israel Fund. RHR, while some of us are fighting for Jewish rights in Israel, fights for Arab rights, always at the expense of Jewish rights, and sees the Arabs as supreme. While numerous examples of this ethos exist, here’s one that is particularly vile, culled from an NGO Monitor report:

“Following the March 2011 Itamar massacre, RHR condemned the murders saying, ‘They were of course a violation of the most basic human right, the right to life,’ but quickly went on to demand that the defense office fulfill its ‘obligation to protect Palestinians.’ The Hebrew website contained a one-sentence condemnation followed by four paragraphs detailing the need to defend Palestinians from ‘settler attacks.’”

Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish Arab Education

Another one of Achvat Amim’s partners is Hand in Hand. NGO Monitor mentions this organization in regard to a past lack of transparency over US funding for Israeli and Arab NGO’s. Hand in Hand schools, attended by Jewish and Arab children, received $1.08m from the US government for the 2012-2015 period, using the money to hold such annual events as “Nakba Day” which translates to “Disaster Day” and is celebrated by Arabs the day after Israel's Independence Day (which means they're mourning Israel's independence/existence/that we whupped their butts). NGO Monitor’s report states that “a flyer for a May 14, 2014 event at the Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem, ‘Families Talk about the Nakba,’ features the USAID logo.”

Now imagine little Israeli children being indoctrinated with this sort of false and ugly narrative about their own people. This is an organization partnering with Achvat Amim. Are your older children contemplating this five-month program more or less susceptible to this smear on their own kind, their own nation?

Givat Haviva

Givat Haviva is another partner of Achvat Amim that received hefty US government funding for a two-year joint project Keshev called “Communicating Peace.” NGO Monitor speaks of a USAID-funded Keshev report accusing the Israeli media of, “ignoring the wider context of the story and Israel’s responsibility for the continuation of the conflict.” In a different USAID-sponsored report on the “Free Gaza Flotilla’s” confrontation with the Israeli Navy, Keshev alleged that “the message that the activists tried to present against the policy of blockade [of Gaza]…remained outside the public discourse in Israel.”

Before we delve further into Achvat Amim, it should be noted that Masa has withdrawn funding from Achvat Amim. Of course, you’d never know this from looking at the Achvat Amim website.

If you were a parent wanting to send your child on a trip to Israel, you might still think it a perfectly viable option, based on what appears to be Masa’s imprimatur.

Why did the Jewish Agency/Masa/the Israeli government decide to withdraw funding from Achvat Amim? Because Israel’s Channel 2 did a huge exposé of the program’s illegal activities, which include, oh, entering a closed Israeli military zone and clashing with IDF soldiers. The closed military zone was the site of an illegal Arab outpost that left-wing orgs keep helping the Arabs rebuild and which the IDF keeps dismantling. Like four times. It’s called Sumud. 

You can see the whole story of Achvat Amim and the kids fighting with Israeli soldiers here:

Channel 2’s source for the story was Ad Kan, an organization working hard to spread the truth about Israel. 

Now losing Masa funding would have to be a big blow to Achvat Amim, since this lost revenue represents $3000 per participant. I wrote to Daniel Roth, director of Achvat Amim to ask him how the withdrawal of funding will affect his program:

Hi Daniel,
I'm writing a piece about Achvat Amim. Can you explain the reason the Israeli government withdrew its funding from your program? How will this affect your program going forward?

What is the cost per participant? Why should a parent send his/her child to your program over others?

I see on your Facebook page a mission statement: Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim is a 5 month volunteer experience in Jerusalem that directly engages with the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the core value of self-determination for all peoples.

Question: where, in the opinion of Achvat Amim, are Jews within their rights to have self-determination, meaning in which territory?
Varda Epstein

In response, I received an out of office email telling me he’d be in on Monday (Nov 21st). Google told me that Nov 21st was a Monday in 2016.

I sent a private message to the Facebook page and was told that Daniel would respond to me by email. Which he did, with the text of the lie-filled statement put out by Hashomer Hatzair which I had already seen:
 Statement from Hashomer Hatzair on the Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim program  Participants of the Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim program who took part in activities which have been portrayed in a misleading manner, did so independently, during time which was not part of the organized program. 

It is important to emphasize that none of them took part in any illegal activity, or any instance of civil disobedience or non-compliance with authorities.   Any attempt to assert otherwise is simply incorrect and defamatory. 

The safety and security of our participants is our top priority and we take that very seriously. 

In light of this situation, we are in active conversation and full cooperation with all of the relevant bodies. 

The Achvat Amim program makes a large contribution to Israeli society – the program includes five months of meaningful volunteer work and successfully connects diaspora Jews to Israel.

Why is this statement a lie? Because the Achvat Amim kids entered a closed military zone, which is definitely illegal, and impeded the ability of Israeli soldiers to perform their duties, also illegal. There's footage, documentation, so the statement is silly. Furthermore, the statement didn’t really answer my questions, for instance, how the loss of Masa funding will impact Achvat Amim. Which is what I told him. 

He wrote:

Hi Varda,
At this time that statement is all we are putting out. 

Thanks sincerely,

Meantime, there was something nagging at me, something awfully familiar about the Achvat Amim clash with IDF soldiers in the South Hebron Hills. A quick search confirmed suspicions that the site of the clash was the same as the site of Rabbi David Basior’s confrontation with the IDF, an event my friend Mike Behar had written up HERE. Michael had been incensed that a man serving as the rabbi of the Kadima Reconstructionist Community in Seattle had attacked Israeli soldiers. What kind of rabbi is that? What kind of Jew??

I thought I spotted Basior wearing a white watch cap at around 2:05 in the Channel 2 footage of the clash in Sumud with IDF soldiers. It didn’t surprise me that he might be involved with Achvat Amim. I sent him a private message to confirm, but I already know him: if he doesn’t like a question, he won’t answer it. I know because I initiated a discussion with him after reading Mike’s piece about him.

Basior had come to Israel not only to beat up on Jewish soldiers, but also to protest the treatment of Arabs who were striking for better jail conditions. It’s difficult to wrap one’s mind about a rabbi making all that effort to defend the jail conditions of Arab terrorists. These are men who murdered innocent Jews in the most callous ways possible. How could he want to help them?
What’s WRONG with him?

So I thought I’d see what would happen if I wrote him something sensible that included actual facts about the treatment of these prisoners and what kind of people they are. I wrote:

“I'm told you're a reasonable man. These are not political prisoners. They're terrorists. Their conditions are not terrible:

Basior responded (May 22):

“Hi Varda. I have different information than you and do believe that prisoners demanding humane treatment while in prison is a reasonable request no matter their crimes. And, I do not argue that they are innocent nor should be released. I have not read a list...I am simply commenting, especially while I happened to be in the West Bank at this very moment, how powerful and important the prisoner strike is to millions of Palestinian people who resist everyday occupation. I am glad I have a reputation of being reasonable. Like every Jew, I deplore violence, think it is sometimes called for, and wish for the safety and peacefulness of my people and all those living among us. I do believe ending the occupation is key toward that goal. Happy to talk more and wish you a great day.”

I thought, “Great! I’m going to draw him out and reason with him. Show him the facts.”

I wrote:

“It would be a reasonable request if their conditions were unreasonable. But their conditions are good.

“Certainly better than in any Arab country.

“Did you go to the link I supplied above?

“After we address the prison conditions, I would like to address the issue of occupation with you.”

But he never responded. Did he watch the clip at the link I sent him, showing the glam conditions of Arabs in Israeli prisons? I will never know, I suppose. If he did, what could he have said to that? “I was wrong—I repent”?

Trick photography??? (Those sneaky Israelis, doctoring Arab media.)

And anyway: how can a rabbi see his own people as “occupying” Israel?? Has he not read the bible? How did he manage to receive ordination??

But I digress. I’m supposed to be writing about Achvat Amim. But somehow, if you write about one of these vile organizations that are attempting to wipe out the State of Israel through Jew-washed antisemitism, you end up finding the tentacles of all of the others crawling all over it.

So gross.  

Here’s the thing: there’s a reason I wrote this piece. I didn’t come to it on my own. I wrote it because people kept asking me to do so. People like Forest Rain, who has a wonderful column at Elder of Ziyon but doesn’t do this sort of writing. She was appalled that parents might send their kids to Achvat Amim thinking it harmless Jewish fun with a soupçon of social justice thrown in for good measure. She wanted me to get the message out, in English, to American parents who might open their wallets to send young Britney or Ben to Israel, not having a clue that Achvat Amim is a subversive organization that eats its own.

So, if you know any Jewish parents out there with kids of a certain age, please send this along to them. Better yet, tweet and share it on Facebook. We need to get the word out. For the sake of our children.

And the sake of our people.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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